Sunday, October 31, 2010
And welcome to the last part of our voyage around the yew tree. Here are the last of the yew tree photos, showing some detail of the berries and some photos of the general effect that yews have in a churchyard. The berries in photo five are just slightly larger than life size on my monitor, so unless you are viewing this on a giant screen in a contingency bunker under a mountain they should be about the same for you.
It was announced here last week that the government plans to sell off about half of the 1.85 million acres of woodland overseen by the Forestry Commission. The news was greeted with a large degree of dismay because these things can only be sold once and will probably be sold off very cheaply (though not to us little people) and they are not really the governments to sell anyway.
The thought of walking through one of our forests and coming up against a large fence erected by Dismayland or McDogshitz doesn't really gladden the heart. Large parts of our woodland are what are sometimes referred to as 'conifer desert' meaning that because the trees are planted so close together no light can reach the ground and nothing else will grow there. These forests would admittedly not be missed very much but I wouldn't trust private companies to be willing to allow access, as it has been hard enough already to gain these rights to roam that we have. It seems to me to be part of the proposed fire sale of the countries assets to pay for some tiny part of the bank bailout, which also gives the kind of people who caused this mess in the first place the opportunity to pick up important parts of any countries infrastructure at a knock down price. A bit of a cheek really which hasn't gone unnoticed.
The other parts that would be interesting to investors would be the 'famous bits' like something called Sherwood Forest, so we can look forward to a funfair experience and hotels in the middle of a forest instead of peace and quiet. Another idea has been for the use of golf courses. I am not a huge fan of golf and I don't know a lot about the game but a forest doesn't seem to me to be the best place for a round of golf, what with there being rather a lot of trees in the way, though I expect something could be done about that particular problem.
Coming soon. We finally leave the graveyard and have a nice river walk, somehow ending up on the wilds of Dartmoor. Well fresh.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Well, plenty going on as usual. Here we have the inquest into the events of 7/7/05 which is being ignored by the media as much as possible but luckily there's some good catch-up and comment at places like this http://stefzucconi.blogspot.com/
Austerity measures have been coming in so thick and fast that it is difficult to put the whole picture together, needless to say that it's looking pretty bad as well as a bit mad. The Government seem to be doing a good job of pissing off nearly everybody with their cuts and are apparently happy to be pissing off the police as well as the armed forces, so are making plenty of fairly powerful enemies for themselves. Most people that I talk to are perfectly aware as to how the government and the banks have stitched us up and that this mess wasn't caused by poor people with big televisions. What can be done about any of this is another problem and all is quiet here so far.
The strikes in France have been interesting to follow. The subject is simplified for us here by the media telling us that the french strikes are all about them not wanting the retirement age raised, but I would guess there might be a bit more to it than that.
There was an amusing piece by a Radio 4 reporter the other day where he went to various locations to catch up with the strike action only to find when he arrived that the strikers had all moved on. It went something along the lines of: "I've been told there were strikers causing disruption at the train station and they were sitting on the tracks stopping a train from going to Paris but when I arrived they had caused disruption and seemed to have moved on before the police turned up" He visited other locations where the same thing happened, with him arriving to report on all the action but with there being nothing left to see.
How unfair of the strikers not to be playing the game properly. They are supposed to strike all day in the same place, giving the police plenty of time to get there and turn the strike into a riot and enabling the media to get their shots of rioting strikers. It's almost as if they had got wise to the fact that hanging around all day and letting the police beat you up might not actually be a very good idea and that you can take your disruption elsewhere or just come back later when the police have gone and have another go. How naughty of them not to play by the approved rules and thanks for the tip BBC!
Above are photos of yew tree two, who is swallowing a gravestone. Yew tree two is a tree that looks good for climbing, comfy for sitting in and is shaped in the 'lightning strike slow motion dance' form. More yew trees coming soon.
Friday, October 15, 2010
There are many good yew trees in Devon and most of the oldest are found in the churchyards. This tree, though not particularly ancient, is a lovely example and is in Sidmouth to the northwest of the church, hiding in plain sight right by the footpath that runs past the splendid bowling green. These photos are all of this one tree but there are other interesting yews around here, so I will put up some pictures of those in a few days time.
For some reason I don't find a lot of yew trees in my travels and explorations of the woods around here. Some smaller yews can always be found but the large ancient yews do not seem to be in the woods here anymore, or if they are I haven't found them yet. They usually grow as solitary trees but groves of them do still exist, the nearest one that I know of is in Wiltshire and is on a private estate. The yew offers very good shelter and protection from the rain and other elements, making it a useful friend to be around. At the moment the yews are dropping their berries, as can be observed in the photos. Despite what most people think, the flesh of the berries is actually edible and it is rather the seed contained within them that is extremely poisonous. This place is covered with squirrels and their caperings do lighten the sombre mood of the place somewhat.
Here is a short extract from The Sacred Yew by Anand Chetan and Diana Brueton.
Perhaps the most famous yew grove in Britain is Druid's Grove in Surrey. It consists of what appears to be the remains of an ancient avenue of yews, plus many scattered ones, growing in a dense, mixed woodland containing many box trees. The oldest here have long been considered ancient. The novelist George Meredith lived nearby from 1867, and he encouraged his visitors to visit the trees, telling them that 'anyone walking under them should remember that they were saplings when Jesus Christ came to earth'.
Allen Meredith first visited the site in 1981 and has returned several times since to document the trees. He writes:
We came across twisted, shattered fragments, the skeleton remains of ancient yews. In the main avenue we saw enormous yews, some upwards of 24 feet in girth. I found a particularly ancient yew, much of it a mere shell, with rotten decayed wood inside, but as so often with aged yews fresh growth has occurred over many centuries. This relic is still a large tree, over 20 feet in girth. Of the most significant trees, five are over 22 feet in girth and four are over 20 feet. For the trees to have reached this kind of size in such a crowded area must have taken many years. This is one of the few remaining ancient woodlands which has trees that would date back to Roman times.
There is no known historic evidence to tell us how Druid's Grove got its name. Allen believes that some of the trees are over 2,000 years old and the name is no coincidence. The trees seem to form an avenue, which suggests purposeful planting rather than natural distribution. The intended use of the grove is much more open to speculation. Many people have commented on the unusual atmosphere of the place. Some strange things have happened there which, although not dramatic in their own right, when added together suggest that this is a special place. Allen has twice found that he has 'stepped out of time' while in Druid's Grove - that when he has left the grove his watch has shown the same time as when he entered it, despite the watch apparently working perfectly. This also happened to him when he visited Knowlton. On another visit to the grove he came across just one other person, whose name was also Allen Meredith.
The wonder of the world
The beauty and the power,
The shapes of things,
Their colours, lights and shades,
These I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts
Thursday, October 07, 2010
A Hawthorn tree with it's full display of berries. This particular tree is on the top of a cliff where it is very windy and so becomes bent and shaped by the wind. Hawthorn berries are edible but not straight from the tree because of their bitter taste. They need to be made into jellies and the like. Lichen grows freely here which is taken as a sign of good clean air.
The wonderful Sloes growing on the Blackthorn tree . A good harvest of these this year. Best picked when they have a pale bloom, they can be as large as the size of your thumbnail unlike the Whortleberry, which though unrelated, are only the size of your little fingernail or smaller, making them much slower to pick. We managed to pick three and a half pounds of Sloes in forty five minutes which is enough for our needs.
These photos were taken on two separate walks in September on two different local hills. At the moment the Autumn weather is veering between very hot summerlike days, to fog and damp darkness to gales and intense squally storms and showers, all of which can happen in one day - though generally don't.
Reality does seem a lot better out here. There is a peace and vastness of sea to experience and the sight and smell of nature getting on with it all, unbothered about whether we are here or not. Picking berries is good because instead of just being an observer you become an active part of the landscape, involved and concentrating on the picking of Sloes and on not catching your hands on the very sharp thorns of the Blackthorn, which protect the berries and can leave the careless picker with a bloody puncture that will go septic. A scratch you might get away with.